This article provides an overview of how demographics are changing the American electorate. Demographics play a key role in shaping electoral outcomes. Understanding these changes is especially important for politicians, campaign strategists, analysts, and journalists who are trying to understand why their preferred candidates keep losing elections or why they can’t figure out what is causing their political troubles.
Each election cycle, there are new and old issues that voters care about; with the changing demographics of America and the increase in eligible voters in some age groups, voters are also becoming more concerned with issues such as pensions, education funding, and health care as well as carving out time for politics in addition to devoting time to it.
What is changing in demographics?
In some ways, the demographics of the electorate are fairly stable. The percentage of voters who are under 35 is growing, while the percentage of senior citizens is not changing. However, the makeup of the electorate is changing significantly, as the Baby Boomers — who comprised the largest voting bloc in the last two elections — move into their 60s and are replaced by a new generation of younger voters.
The rise of the Millennial combined with the steady rise of the Post-Millennial and Generation Z creates a new electorate that is significantly different from the Boomer electorate. The Millennial generation was born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s.
This group is now between the ages of 18 and 35. The Post-Millennial generation was born between the early 1990s and the early 2000s. They are now aged between 36 and 63. Generation Z is the final generation that is now aged between the ages of 13 and 26.
Rise of the Millennial
Millennials are now the largest generation of American voters. The Millennials currently makeup about one-third of the electorate and will soon become the largest single voting bloc in the electorate. In the past, voters have defined their political preferences in terms of generations, with each new generation replacing the older one.
So, for example, the Boomers replaced the Silent Generation, and now the Millennials will take over from the Baby Boomers. With the Millennials now the largest generation, we are about to enter a new phase in the changing demographics of the American electorate. Millennials have become the largest generation in the electorate because they have lower fertility rates than previous generations.
The fertility rate is the average number of children a woman will have during her lifetime. The lowest fertility rate in American history was among the Baby Boomers, who had a fertility rate of just over 2.2 children per woman. By contrast, millennials have a fertility rate of just over 2.0 children per woman, lower than the rate for Generation Xers, which was just over 2.3 children per woman.
Rise of the Post-Millennials and Generation Z
While most Millennials were still in high school, a new generation, the Post-Millennials, was entering the workforce. Millennials had entered the workforce and were now starting families of their own, but most had not yet started families.
The Post-Millennials are now about 30 years old, making them about the same age as the Millennials were when the latter entered the electorate. As the Post-Millennial generation nears 30, it will have time to become eligible to vote. One issue that is causing concern among political analysts is the rise of young people who have no intention of voting.
This phenomenon is often referred to as the “Millennial Pink Slip.” Many young people are holding out for the perfect job or housing opportunity that will make voting unnecessary, and they are willing to express that sentiment by not registering to vote.
However, the rising cost of living and the lack of affordable housing options in many cities are likely to change the minds of many of these young people, and it will be interesting to see how that impacts the general electorate as well.
Population Aging: The New Normal
After many decades during which the population was growing, the US population is now aging. This change has been driven by the decline in the birth rate since the 1990s and the rise in deaths. The population is now aging because there are fewer people of childbearing age, and those people are living longer than previous generations. The Census Bureau projects that the American population will grow slowly over the next two decades but will then begin to age.
Native Americans are an exception to the rule
The changing demographics of the American electorate have important implications for one group that is an exception to the rule: Native Americans. The Census Bureau does not ask about ethnicity or race on any of its surveys, so there is no way to know exactly how many Native Americans are in the electorate.
However, the Census data does provide some insights. For example, the overall US population is projected to grow, but the Native American population is expected to decline.